Proudly cradling the basil harvested from my community garden plot. Varieties include: ‘African Blue’, ‘Purple Ruffles’, ‘Sweet Basil’, ‘Genovese’, ‘Columnar’, ‘Spicy Globe’, ‘Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil’, ‘Dark Opal’, and ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ (a variegated variety).
I reluctantly harvested the remaining basil plants from my community garden plot last weekend. With the temperatures dipping low it was time to take the plunge or risk losing all that lovely fresh basil to the frost. I am yet to harvest the remaining plants growing in containers on my rooftop deck but we are enjoying nipping out for fresh leaves to put on sandwiches and in salads so late into the fall season. Really with such a mild fall I am shocked that we have been able to hold out for so long. Basil is notorious for hating cold, wet weather and has never made it this far into the Fall (in my memory) before turning black and flopping over in defeat.
Between last weekend’s mad pesto/pisto making operation, and the basil I have been drying in bunches since mid-summer, I’d say we’re pretty well stocked until the first plants are ready to be pinched back next summer. I think this may be the first time that I’ve been able to look into the freezer and say with a sense of authority that the bounty is good.
The following is a very short clip revealing how frugal I can be about the basil. What can I say, each leaf is like a tiny nugget of gold!
While out on the Leslie Street Spit this past holiday weekend, I noticed that most of the tansy flower heads were turning black. I don’t grow tansy in any of my gardens and have never observed this detail while out walking the railroad tracks in my area where tansy grows wild and abundantly. In the past I’d swear they aged towards a warmer, less haggard shade of brown as the season wrapped up. But maybe I’m wrong and what I really need to do is get myself started on a daily regimen of Ginkgo biloba supplements and craploads of omega-3 fatty acids, stat!
Tansy is known for being distinctly disease and pest resistant, a feature that makes it a great herbal pest spray when brewed into a tea. I have been unable to find any information about possible tansy diseases and am chalking this up to the drought and humidity we experienced in late august when the plants were in full bloom. But of course tansy is also known for being incredibly drought tolerant and I think their survival in the wasteland along the railroad tracks is good evidence of that. So maybe circular logic is bringing me back to my original conclusion which is that I have simply stumbled upon an observation that I either failed to make in the past or one that was previously made but forgotten.
In conclusion: I smart.
Regardless, I really liked the look of fields dotted with thin clusters of blackened tansies poking through wild grass and aging goldenrod.
My favourite tool bag at my community garden plot, October 4, 2007. I forgot to bring a harvest bag and had to cram everything into the top of the tool bag. I’m currently harvesting lots of dandelion greens for boiling and herbs for drying but the weather has been so mild even the summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, and ‘Mexican sour gherkins’ are continuing to produce. It was so peaceful and fresh there yesterday evening — for a moment I wished I had a sleeping bag to curl up into.
I just returned from my community garden plot where I harvested a ton of onions, garlic, and borage. They were all overflowing in the plot and some needed to be sacrificed for the good of the garden and future harvests. The garlic had already formed a few cloves each. I left plenty more that will stay put until the fall when they are fully formed. I’m figuring on some sort of soup for the borage. Something that would benefit from a cucumbery flavor. The flowers are good in fizzy beverages. The onions will become tonight’s meal, French Onion Soup.
I also harvested my first cucumber (‘Parisian Pickling’), radish flowers, swiss chard and lots of herbs including basil (2 kinds), ‘Golden’ oregano, variegated marjoram, and garlic chives.
The valerian plants were COVERED in lady bug larvae! So exciting! Sorry no photos. I took my film camera with me.
Not a day has gone by over the last month where our meals haven’t been prepared with some percentage of harvest from the gardens. As the summer heats up that percentage is growing. Filling the fridge (and our bellies) with my own harvest is very satisfying. It just never grows old. And neither does bragging and gloating about it.
Guest Post by Amy Urquhart
The first time I saw a patchouli plant was at my friend Sarah/s house. She had one growing in a large, enamel pot alongside an eggplant, and I admired it right away. The leaves were a beautiful shade of jade green and it smelled heavenly. I plucked a fading one off and left it in my bag for a few days.
The smell of patchouli reminds some people of the sixties, but since I wasn’t alive during the sixties, well, that’s not the case for me. I just love how fresh and green and musky it smells.
I bought my first patchouli plant at Canada Blooms in 2006. I put it outside my kitchen door so I could rub it and smell it as I went in and out of the house, a location which proved to provide less than ideal growing conditions, however. I brought it inside through the winter, and it survived, but as the number of hours of sunlight increased, it got quite leggy. The stems root in water very easily, so in the spring after I had cut the plant back, I found myself with not one, but two leggy patchouli plants. I could have had more.
The good thing about patchouli is that if you cut it right back, it responds with lots of lush growth. So when I put them outside earlier this summer, I cut them right back. Soon small, new leaves appeared on the woody stems and now they are doing very well. They seem to like mostly sun, but will tolerate partial shade. They do well in the heat on my south-facing back deck.
This is one plant I will surely not be without. Even if it means I’ll be called a dirty hippie.
Patchouli photo by Amy Urquhart